Week’s events strive to break silent walls

By Jean Volz

The silent barriers which separate deaf students from those with hearing are going to be broken down this week through various Deaf Awareness Week events.

There are many sponsors of the week’s activities, but the one that is perhaps most directly involved with the outcome of the events is NIU’s Program for the Hearing Impaired (PHI).

Francesca Leonard, instructor for PHI and an interpreter of sign language, said PHI is a preparation program to help hearing impaired students improve math and English skills necessary for college or job training.

Leonard said there are about 100 hearing impaired students on campus and 40 utilize the services of PHI.

“PHI helps me to prepare for post-secondary experiences,” said James Carr, a student in PHI.

The purpose of the week, according to Leonard, is to break down the barriers that exist between deaf and hearing students.

The week’s activities began Monday night with Sign for Supper in Grant Towers South. Residents were taught to finger spell their names before entering the cafeteria, Carr said.

The second activity of the evening took place at 8 p.m. in the Heritage Room of Holmes Student Center. Howard Rosenblum, a deaf lawyer from a Chicago firm, spoke on his education and work history, said Alma Parker, a PHI student.

“Sign Sync” will be held at 9 p.m. tonight in GTS Formal A and B lounges. This activity involves hearing impaired and deaf students doing song interpretations through sign language, Parker said.

At 8 p.m. Wednesday in GTS A & B lounges a video titled PAH Side Story will be shown. Carr said the program is a production similar to West Side Story, except the clash is between the deaf and hearing worlds.

According to Parker, Nov. 4 will be the evening to see Bob Paul in the Music Building Lecture Hall 173. He will tell stories and anecdotes of deaf culture, and a voice interpreter will be provided for hearing audience members.

At 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 at Mardi Gras Lanes there will be a Bowl-a-Thon sponsored by the Illinois Deafness and Rehabilitation Association to raise scholarship money. Parker said the $6.55 cost will include three games and shoe rental.

Leonard said a raffle also will be held that evening.

A simulated Deaf Town will be held in GTS Cafeteria Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. The purpose of the silent town is to make visitors use nonverbal communication.

“It will show how it is to live in the reverse world,” Carr said.

Sunshine Too will be in Diversions Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. It is a professional theater group which has three deaf and three hearing actors simultaneously using sign language and voice to promote deaf pride and self-esteem, Carr said.

Both Carr and Parker have seen the theater group previously and have enjoyed their performances.

Leonard said she expects a big turnout at the activities.

The results of the events during Deaf Awareness Week will help promote better communication between hearing and deaf students, Leonard said.

Carr said NIU students can help the communication process by learning sign language or socializing with members of the hearing impaired community.

Parker agreed and added the idea of a sign language class being taught in the residence halls as another aid in the breakdown of the silent barrier.

The activities of Deaf Awareness Week are free to all.